Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello issued a message to the public on Saturday afternoon, May 16, detailing the City of Lebanon’s response to the go-yellow resolution passed Friday by the Lebanon County Commissioners.
Mayor Capello outlined how the Lebanon City Police Department will proceed given the commissioners’ resolution, as well as an earlier memo from Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf. In the memo, DA Hess Graf said that her office would not prosecute or pursue legal action against any local business that wished to reopen, so long as they complied with an April 15 order issued by Governor Tom Wolf’s administration.
The April 15 state order requires businesses to take a number of mitigation steps, including requiring all customers to wear masks unless they cannot wear one due to a medical condition.
Capello said that city police will be enforcing the April 15 order, and that, following warnings, citations would be issued for any violations. She said that Lebanon City Police will not however file any criminal charges or citations against businesses that choose to operate despite their business type being specifically prohibited by the state’s red-yellow-green phase system.
As defined by the state, through the yellow phase, some types of businesses must remain closed, including gyms, spas, hair salons, and entertainment venues, and restaurants are to keep operations curtailed to carry-out and delivery only.
To date, the city’s police department has not issued any charges or citations for business non-compliance, Capello said.
The mayor noted in the message that the commissioners’ resolution is not a directive to local businesses that they must re-open. “It is a suggestion,” said Capello. “As a business that is not permitted to operate in a ‘Red Phase’, you should consult with an attorney to understand the ramifications of a decision to re-open.”
As LebTown reported on Friday, the resolution will not protect businesses violating the governor’s “red” status restrictions from possible legal liability, loss of insurance coverage, or sanctions against business and occupational licenses.
It is not yet clear to what extent the Wolf administration will pursue violations of the state orders. Previously the governor had directed state agencies, including the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor and industry, and the Pennsylvania State Police, to enforce the orders to the full extent of the law.
On Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture outlined its enforcement plan for restaurants that offer dine-in services to patrons in violation of Gov. Wolf’s previous orders.
Inspectors will respond to confirmed reports of restaurants offering dine-in services by first issuing a warning letter, following up with an additional inspection, and then, if necessary, making an adjudication to suspend the business’ retail food license. If the business continues to operate after its license is revoked, a citation will be issued with the magisterial district judge and the Bureau of Food Safety may pursue civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day of violation.
The state conducts food safety inspections in much of the county, but in the City of Lebanon and West Lebanon Township, food safety inspections are conducted by municipal employees.
LebTown has reached out to Mayor Capello regarding what this means for restaurants in the City of Lebanon and will be updating this post upon learning more.
The Pennsylvania State Police have said that although counties cannot override the governor’s orders by declaring themselves yellow, state troopers will not insert themselves into jurisdictions already served by municipal police departments.
“We don’t intercede or second-guess the actions taken by municipal police departments,” said Lt. Col. Scott Price in a press conference last week, as covered by PennLive. “That situation is not completely foreign to us. We will take the appropriate enforcement action based on the law as we know it to be.”
Full text of Mayor Sherry Capello’s message
Yesterday the County Commissioners approved a Resolution to declare that Lebanon County will operate under the “Yellow Phase” of the Governor’s Plan for Pennsylvania” while adhering to all established safety guidelines. However, the Resolution is not binding nor is a directive on any business that operates within Lebanon County. It is a suggestion. As a business that is not permitted to operate in a “Red Phase”, you should consult with an attorney to understand the ramifications of a decision to re-open. You should carefully consider your options. The Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce provides some pertinent links for additional information to review when considering these options. (Please see below.)
The Lebanon County District Attorney announced she will not prosecute or pursue legal action against any business which reopens, so long as the business complies with the mandates set forth in the DOH Secretary Levine’s 4-15-20 Order. This Order dictates how approved businesses must conduct themselves, and includes directives of no more than ten (10) people within an area, the use of personal protective equipment, and social distancing of six (6) feet or more. (Secretary Levine’s 4-15-20 Order)
Regarding the enforcement of any business not permitted to operate during a “Red Phase”, the Lebanon City Police Department will respond to calls for service based upon complaints. The business will be educated on the Governor’s Order that indicates that Lebanon County is in a Red Phase. Additionally, the business will be advised of Secretary Levine’s 4-15-20 Order concerning safety guidelines. Based upon the District Attorney’s position, the Lebanon Police Department will not file a criminal charge or citation against any business not permitted to operate in a “Red Phase”, however, after a warning, the Lebanon Police Department will issue a citation to any business violating Secretary Levine’s 4-15 20 Order concerning violations of safety guidelines. This is consistent with the guidelines issued by the District Attorney. Prior to this directive, the City Police Department had issued no charges or citations for business non-compliance.
The City of Lebanon supports our business community, is concerned for our economic recovery and wants to open up our community safely. My Administration is seeking approval to use Community Development Block Grant monies for a Business Recovery/Business Restart Forgiveness Loan Program. Details will be released in the near future. In the meantime, we request information from our business community. Please complete our Business Impact survey at the bottom of this communication. We wish you great fortitude as you work through this challenging and unprecedented time.
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